All professionally run superyachts will have clear repatriation procedures set out in an employment contract and agreed upon before any crewmember joins the boat. Fully understanding the terms of employment is of particular importance for the superyacht crew: working abroad and potentially far away from home, factors such as repatriation can have a significant impact on a crewmember when it comes to leaving a yacht. However, misconceptions about repatriation still arise.

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) states, “You should have the right to choose your preferred place of repatriation from the following options: the place where you agreed to join the ship; the place stated in a CBA; your country of residence; any other place agreed at the time of engagement.” Therefore, on boats complying with the MLC, it is up to the crewmember to ensure their desired destination is stipulated in the Seafarers’ Employment Agreement (SEA). It is also up to captains and management companies to operate with SEAs where the exact place of repatriation is discussed, agreed and stated at the time of employment, which would minimise any misunderstandings.

Given how clearly the place of repatriation is stipulated in the crewmember’s SEA, Jackie Houchard, director of Levanto International, believes that most crewmembers are well aware of their rights prior to signing their SEA. “In accordance with MLC regulations, every seafarer has the right to be repatriated upon leaving a yacht, whether this is upon resignation by the crewmember or upon notice served by the yacht or employer,” she explains. “Repatriation must be arranged by the ship owner or employer to the place of repatriation stipulated on the crewmember’s SEA and all costs concerned with the repatriation are to be borne by the ship owner or employer.”

While the situation on commercial yachts is fairly straightforward, with terms and conditions clearly stated in the SEA, on a pleasure vessel the situation is potentially more complex...

The place of repatriation must be mutually agreed by both the ship owner or employer and the crewmember prior to the crewmember joining the yacht and the SEA being issued. Often, this is the place of residence of the crewmember (that is the country which the crewmember calls ‘home’); but it can also be an alternative place, provided that this is mutually agreed between both parties.

“Upon leaving the yacht, it is possible for the crewmember to elect an alternative place of repatriation, for example if they have obtained a position on another yacht,” Houchard continues. “However, any change in the place of repatriation must be documented in the crewmember’s end-of-contract letter and both parties must sign the letter, thereby agreeing to the change.” To ensure that a crewmember can be flown to their destination of choice, it’s always best to agree on this prior to joining when there is more room for negotiation.

It is also important to note that under the MLC, in the case of gross misconduct, the owner is not obliged to cover the cost of repatriation. “The exception is with a country where working visas are required, such as the United States, where the owner is required to repatriate the crewmember,” adds James McMaster of McMaster Yachts.

While the situation on commercial yachts is fairly straightforward, with terms and conditions clearly stated in the SEA, on a pleasure vessel the situation is potentially more complex and the owner’s repatriation obligations should be set out in the employment contract. “The terms and conditions are not regulated and so the crew are well advised to take time to review these contracts very carefully,” McMaster concludes.

A full discussion about repatriation appears in issue 185 of The Superyacht Report, out now. 


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